News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqBritish, Iranian FMs meet at Iraq conference

British, Iranian FMs meet at Iraq conference

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AFP: British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett met her Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, on Thursday on the sidelines of a conference on Iraq, an AFP journalist reported. by Lamia Radi

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, May 3, 2007 (AFP) – British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett met her Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, on Thursday on the sidelines of a conference on Iraq, an AFP journalist reported.

The meeting comes a month after Iran detained 15 British naval personnel for two weeks, threatening to spark a major crisis amid the West’s standoff with the Islamic republic over its nuclear programme.

“It’s the first time I meet Mr Mottaki,” Beckett said in a brief statement to reporters after the half-hour meeting.

“We had useful discussions which culminated simply in mutual recognition that there is scope for a better relationship between Iran and the United Kingdom,” she added.

The talks also come as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been engaging in rare contacts with old foes Iran and Syria.

The diplomats are attending a two-day conference in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh aimed at stabilising war-torn Iraq.

The meeting between Beckett and Mottaki was the first at this level since the Iranian diplomat met then foreign secretary Jack Straw in London in February 2006, a British home office official said before the talks.

When asked if the meeting meant Britain and Iran were seeking to put the sailors crisis behind them, the official objected: “We are going to tell them that it is not just something we got over.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official also said Beckett and Mottaki were likely to discuss Iraq’s security.

“We are aware that techniques and arms are coming from elements within Iran,” he said. “These elements are supplying arms that have been used against our people in Iraq.”

The official was likely referring to Iranian-made explosively formed projectiles (EFP), which the US military also says has killed at least 170 of its troops between May 2004 and January 2007.

Iraqi National Security Adviser Muwaffaq Rubaie told AFP earlier Thursday that the use of EFPs against multinational forces in Iraq had sharply decreased in recent months.

“The EFPs have gone down dramatically in the last three months,” he said.

EFPs are semi-molten, fist-size copper slugs capable of piercing armour which the US military says is being supplied to Iraqi Shiite militias by Iran.

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